COACHING CORNER: Work Zone Truck-Involved Fatal Crashes up 39%

By Mike Hitchcock, Member of ICSA Board of Directors

It’s that time of year again. Spring break is over, kids are back in school, the weather is warming, and road construction crews are getting back to work. As badly as we need our roads repaired and maintained, work zones present challenges for professional and non-professional drivers alike.

Work zone delays are always frustrating but for professional drivers, road construction and delays make it difficult to get loads delivered safely and legally on time. Worse, work zone delays can create frustration and fatigue that leads to accidents.

What do we know about construction zone crashes? Rear-end crashes (running into the rear of a slowing or stopping vehicle) are the most common type of work zone crash. Fatal work zone crashes occur most often in summer and fall, on roads with regular speed limits over 50 mph. Truck-involved fatal work zone crashes increased by 39% between 2020 and 2021—from 210 fatal crashes in 2020 to 291 fatal crashes in 2021. In the same period, overall work zone fatalities increased by nearly 11% while overall non-work zone roadway fatalities increased by 10.3 percent.

How can a professional driver prepare ahead of time to deal with construction zones?

First, PLAN AHEAD! Make your mind up at the beginning of your day to keep your cool and decide how to adjust to construction delays.

• Check road conditions before your trip (dial 511 for road information) and leave early so you have plenty of time.
• Expect the unexpected. Plan for motorists to make unwise moves and engage in hard braking.
• Remember that most construction zone detours are planned for autos. You may need extra room and extra time to maneuver.
• SLOW DOWN! When you first see a work zone warning sign, slow down early. Allow yourself time to visualize the scene and prepare. Tap your brake lights or emergency flashers to warn traffic behind you. Don’t lag and wait until the last minute to merge. If lanes are restricted, merge early. (Unsafe lane changes are another major factor in work zone accidents.)
• Leave yourself a way out! Have an escape plan and don’t let yourself get boxed in if possible.
• Don’t tailgate! Following too closely is the most common error leading to fatal crashes.
• Minimize distractions and focus 100% on the situation at hand. Stay off your cell phone! Cell phone usage in a moving commercial vehicle is not only illegal, but also extremely dangerous, especially in work zones where drivers must always be vigilant.
• Keep a safe distance from workers and equipment.
• Pay close attention to traffic, detour signs and the flagger (if present).
• Be patient and professional! Avoid confrontations. Don’t honk, tailgate, gesture, or drive aggressively.

EPA Adopts Strict New Truck Emission Standards

11 April 2024

Beginning with model year 2027 and extending through 2032, new greenhouse gas (GHG) emission targets are set for all types of new medium- and heavy-duty engines and vehicles.

Federal Highway Administration Loses Climate Change Rule

11 April 2024

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) was fighting a court challenge to its proposed rule that would have required state departments of transportation and metropolitan planning organizations to establish their own emissions rules – as if there aren’t enough federal and state agencies seeking authority over truck and automobile pollution.